starring Sam Jackson and Colin Farrell
2 1/2 stars
The most memorable thing about the 1975 TV series S.W.A.T., it is agreed, was its trumpet-blaring da na NAA na na NAA na na NAA theme music. Curiously, even though the 2003 S.W.A.T. in theatres now has plenty of references to the TV series, including giving most of the characters the same names as the ones from the show, they barely play up the theme music at all. Oh, you hear it, kind of, wafting underneath the incidental chase music as the black cube S.W.A.T. vans careen around corners, but it's more hey, is that what I think it is? Is that that da na naa, na na naa, na na naa thing? Isn't that the S.W.A.T. theme? It's there, but it never really rises to the level of full consciousness.
So too the movie. SWAT is curiously unpropulsive, undriven by big action set pieces. The action scenes are there, butů what were they, again? Something about a plane, and then another plane, and some hostage situations? It's all briskly done, but never really extraordinary or startling. And frankly, when we do get to see some stuff blow up, it's far deeper into chitnzy-looking territory than we usually expect to see in a summer blockbuster. An exploding helicopter springs to mind as particularly hollow-looking.
So no real show-stopping S.W.A.T. action scenes to reward the viewer for his time and patience. No, this movie's mostly about hot recruiting action, as Sam Jackson recruits the hell out of a bunch of new recruits. LL Cool J's one of the recruits, as is Colin Farrell and Michelle Rodriguez. They've gotten the requisite I'm-watching-you-and-if-you-screw-up-once-you're-dead lecture from the jerky police captain, and from then on the only source of tension is that thin, thin thread, our concern about whether the captain really *will* bounce them out of the force if they screw up. Whoa --they'd better not screw up! Luckily, being in S.W.A.T is about being so good that you don't screw up, so (if I may wreck it for you) they don't. Meanwhile, a swishy euromobster wanders around in a way that we can only assume will eventually bring him into contact with our heroes once they're done recruiting and training, and we assume right.
Given the weak action scenes and the less-than-driving plot, it's hard to to put your finger on why, without anything really outstanding in the movie, you're not bored as hell watching it. And yet S.W.A.T. is agreeable enough summer time-wasting, even if it feels more like two episodes of a TV show stitched together rather than a movie. Nothing's ever too fantastic, makes you actually sit up and pay attention like you would at a movie you actually liked, but at the same time, it never bottoms out and makes you desperate to escape. The direction never once gets up to "good", but it also never drops the tick-tick-ticking of "adequate".
The stars probably help in the watchability department, even though it's hard to remember anything memorable any of them did. Still, Sam Jackson's always good to have around, and as Lt. "Hondo" Harrison of the L.A. S.W.A.T. (whicm means Special Weapons And Tactics, by the way), he trains and expects people to live up to their potential and all that jazz. LL Cool J, again, tough to recall anything in particular he did in this film, but his face is familiar and welcoming and it pleases me to see him. Colin Farrell's in there too, as protagonist Jim Street, and he gets to be concerned and try his hardest., like a real S.W.A.T. cop!
There's nothing hateable in S.W.A.T.; it's certainly too silly and brainless
to even get mad at its politics. It would probably be a mistake to see
this in the theatre given the other options right now --28 Days Later and
Pirates of the Carribean both springing to mind as far superior--
but if you found yourself there, you'd probably make it out okay.